Survive the Ground

Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season contained a solid lesson.  Steelers hosted the Patriots and it came down to the wire.  Great games are always decided by a key play or two and this one was no different.  With less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Steelers’ tight end (Jesse James) caught what appeared to be a touchdown to secure the win.  Instead…they lost.

The NFL rulebook states that if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he “must maintain control of the ball until afterhis initial contact with the ground.”  During the lengthy official review, it was deemed evident that James did not “survive the ground” and the touchdown was overturned.  Game over.

Survive the Ground

The sequence of these events reminded me of our goals and resolutions.  I started 2017 with some clear goals that would demand a lot of attention.  While some goals were achieved, others were virtually stillborn.

The first obstacle struck early in the year and I dropped the ball.  I didn’t anticipate variables like the Grim Reaper, traveling, moving, or new goals to surface along the way.  Of course, these are all excuses.  Excuses make the ball pop out.

“Good resolutions are a pleasant crop to sow. The seed springs up so readily, and the blossoms open so soon with such a brave show, especially at first. But when the time of flowers has passed, what as to the fruit?”

THE CHALLENGE:  A new year is upon us.  What do you intend to achieve?  Be a season ticket holder to the game of life.  This game is measured in years with no offseason and the stakes are much higher than a measly sporting event.  Remember, opposition will be knocking at your door.  Like it or not, you will make contact with the turf.  It is not enough to simply dream a goal, hope a goal, or even write down a goal.  You must internalize it.  It must excite you, you must dream about it, you must long for it… that is of course if you want to survive the ground.

Illustration by Ashley Goodall

Four Things…

  1. If I could give my 18-year-old self just one piece of advice it would be “master your craft”.
  2. If my 80-year-old self could come give me just one piece of advice I hope it would be “master your craft”.
  3. If I could get one piece of advice from anyone I ever looked up to, dead or alive, I hope it would be “master your craft”.
  4. If I could give YOU one piece of advice it would be…you guessed it…MASTER YOUR CRAFT.


“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”  – Bruce Lee

Photo by me (years ago, trying to master my craft)



When I was a kid, daytime television used to be strikingly bland.  The most excitement you could seize was by watching the game show “The Price Is Right”.  It looked like a mock-up cardboard version of Las Vegas Blvd.


The pinnacle of each episode was when the host (Bob Barker) would announce the prize we all knew was coming “A NEEEEEWWW CARRR!”

Bob Barker

Contestants would jump up and down, smile, shake, cry, scream and all but lose their minds. And yet, we as viewers were never taken by surprise.  It was our dopamine fix.

Even after 45 years, the game show is still going “strong” – and still corny as ever.  If you like magicians pulling wool over your eyes, this is a good place to be.  If you like watching adults act more immature than 5-year-olds, then this is the show for you.  (click this link and you’ll see exactly what I mean.)

For the majority of society, this show is an afterthought.  Marketers and bankers have our attention in a different way.  “Sign here and we’ll give you the real thing.”  We go straight for the credit crack pipe…and do so more frequently.  “Oh, there’s a better car this year than last year?  Where do I sign?”

Around 2003 I was unemployed.  In fact, if it wasn’t for a good friend I would have been homeless.  My bed was a sleeping bag on a hard floor, my diet consisted of eggs and green beans, and my transportation was a BMX bike. I was happy.  Very happy.  But I knew I was living beneath my potential.  Would it have been nice to have a car?  Yes!  Did I dream of owning a house in that city?  Yes!  But, I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. I’d look at houses on the mountainside or new cars on the road and it truly baffled me.  I couldn’t comprehend how people could afford it – even on credit.

I prayed…a lot!  “How do I improve my position?  How do I close the gap?  How is this even possible?”  The answers didn’t come right away.  Like a maze, “backward” was the way “forward”.  I took a very scenic route to have those questions answered and realized in a precisely detailed, visceral and intimate fashion.

As a man handles his troubles during the day, he goes to bed at night a general, captain or private.

Yesterday, I walked into a dealership and paid cash for a car.  Part of the aforementioned “scenic route” taught me never to buy a brand new car off of the lot.  So, I got a slightly older model in “like new” condition for half the price. But it was nice to know that price wouldn’t have been a factor either way.

My next post will cover a hard lesson learned on this journey and why I chose to purchase an all electric vehicle.

THE CHALLENGE:  Assuming you are normal (and human), there is something you want but which is presently out of your reach.  Be patient! The law of the harvest is real.  You reap what you sow.  Don’t give in to the glitz and glamour of Vegas, the illusion of game shows, the captivity of debt, or the barren promise of a quick fix scheme. 

“Poverty treads on the heels of great and unexpected riches”

Work hard, remain diligent, educate yourself, stay devoted to the principles you know are true, invest in the quality of your character and your dreams will come to fruition in due time.

The Best Advice – Period

The best advice I’ve ever received came from the infamous Dr. Seuss.


You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets.  Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

11 Lessons From a Half Marathon

This past February my wife (Kim) and I ran the Murietta Avocado half marathon. It was my first “official” half. Finish time 1:39

Below are 11 lessons gleaned from the experience:

1) Generally speaking, paid races are a waste of money. It’s for people who need an official calendar date to find motivation, or to seek external validation by suiting up in fancy workout apparel to show the world they are part of that particular culture. I feel equally satisfied (if not more so) running on my own.

2) Preparation is everything. Prior to the start, Kim remarked that I looked calm. I was, very calm indeed. Yes, there were some unknown elements, but putting one foot in front of the other is old news. The distance is old news. Running early in the morning is old news. Running hills is old news. There were two hills on this race that caused many otherwise strong runners to walk. I embraced those inclines. Loved them even. I’m not into the practice of positive affirmations. But I did continually repeat “hills are where I win”. After each runner slipped behind me, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the hours I had spent running up Cowles Mountain (the highest point in San Diego County) and grinding up the fire break trails on Camp Pendleton. I didn’t look down on anyone who couldn’t keep up. I didn’t think I was “better” than them. I did, however, feel EXTREMELY grateful that I had already paid the piper. I had good credit and it made me want to never quit fighting gravity.

3) Who do you pace? The race was equipped with “pacers” who each held a stick with a fluorescent sign indicating the pace/time they were going to finish. I reflected repeatedly upon this concept. In life, we need someone to pace. We need a mentor. For me, in my world, I want to reach my potential as an artist. BUT, I’m not pacing anyone! Big no-no. I follow plenty of artists on Instagram who put out quality work every month, week or even day. Can I not pace them? Who is at the front of the pack? How do I catch up? Why am I not there? What fluorescent signs have those who have gone before me, left as a clue? Can I not watch more videos and read more books striving diligently to master the principles?

4) Practice how you play. Normally when I run, I stop to pee whenever I feel the urge. Today I didn’t. “Time doesn’t stop when I stop”, I thought. So I continued to push – it was unpleasant. I exercised discipline running up hills prior to the race, but never holding onto a full bladder. I need to exercise discipline in ALL areas of training, just as if were game day.

5) Expect the unknown. Mile 9 had a road washed out. There was no option but to run through this excess rain water. My feet got wet. Not a little wet, a lot wet. All the way wet. It also was unpleasant. The lesson here was to “go the extra mile” while preparing to be the best. I often run along the ocean but never once considered soaking my feet to add a curve ball. Another lesson here is about being a good volunteer. There were several Marines acting as road guards just a few feet away. This happened to be an area with no traffic. They could have EASILY walked over and set out a few boulders for runners to walk over. Of course, they were just there to hit a wicket for their advancement. A generation of idleness. While I’m on the topic, I noticed that many of the road guards had bags of fast food by their side. Juxtaposition indeed.

6) No time to look back. One thing I did well was to avoid the temptation of looking back. I focused on closing the distance to the runner in front of me. If there was any advantage to paying for a race this was it. It naturally creates a spirit of competitiveness. Whenever I found myself next to someone running the same exact pace, I had to be the one to speed up a little. Only one person played leapfrog with me. Once I made the second pass I committed to making it final. Cars have large windshields and tiny rear view mirrors, most of our time should be spent looking at the lights in front of us.

7) Family first! Kim pulled her hamstring insomuch that she heard an audible pop. She sent me the info via text. This gave me a heavy heart and I suspect even slowed me down a bit just to think that she was not enjoying the race as much as me. I wanted to turn back and be with her. I made the difficult decision to push forward. This takes me back to my first point, upon injury – not worth the expense. Also, may divide loved ones…I only didn’t turn back because I thought of the money ‘invested’….but what I really needed to be doing was investing in my injured wife.

8) Scout the track. If I’m going to race for time, it’s a good idea to scout the track. It’s like reading the table of contents of a book. It will help to subconsciously prepare for what’s ahead. I could have run faster but not knowing the track required me to pace on the safe side. For example, the first mile-marker was at mile 4, but in my head, this was mile 6 – a disappointment. From mile 12 until the finish, I didn’t know where to turn on the gas. Additionally, the course ended up being 13.31 total distance in order to corral the racers into a parking lot.

9) Girls rock! It was awesome to see several females run faster than me. Not because I thought of myself as better/faster/stronger….but knowing how fast I did run and how far behind I was just evoked an endless wellspring of respect for those sisters!

10) No pain no gain. I was limping on Monday (before the race) and sprinting on the day of (Saturday). Every day in between I ran a little bit despite the pain. I demanded of myself that my body would perform come show time. It worked, the pain subsided long enough to execute.

11) Runners high. It’s a real thing. Not the way others have described it to me. For me, it comes after a long-ish run. Sometimes immediately after, but sometimes hours later. I just sit down, relax and everything just slows down. My sense of sight, smell, and hearing are enhanced. I feel content beyond description. It is a very euphoric experience.

Spit Truth, Not Venom

If you’ve ever been bitten by a poisonous snake in the wild, please comment below and carry on with your day – this post is probably not for you.

Now, for the rest of us…what are we to make of our fears? Are they rational? Today, I refer specifically to snakes.

I overheard the following dialogue this morning:
Q: “Hey are you going to run the firebreak?”
A: “Why? So I can get bit by a snake?”

Camp Pendleton California consists primarily of dry mountainous terrain subject to fire. The aforementioned “firebreak” is a dirt road of loose soil intended to deter the spread of flames. I have come to prefer running mountain trails such as this. Never once have I encountered a “slithering snake.” (click link below to understand this reference)

Have I stumbled upon rattlesnakes while living in Southern California? Yes. In each case they were minding their own business. Occasionally, so docile I thought they were dead. I respected their space but never felt threatened. The odds of getting bit on the firebreak are so slim that I cringe to even entertain the conversation. Stephen King said it best, “Reality is the best reassurance.”

A long lost friend once admonished me to “Say what you mean”. I have reflected on this counsel often. The phrase “I don’t want to get bit by a snake” probably meant, “I don’t want to run uphill”. We replace truth with deceit. We substitute fear for excuse. We know people will be more likely to freely accept a fear than an outright lie. So, we throw snakes. We spit venom.

If you have a tendency to substitute “snakes” for truth, decide now to improve! For example, next time someone knocks at your door, refrain from spitting venom like this;
“I have no money right now”
“I donated last week”
“I need my partner’s permission”
“I am moving soon”
“My neighbors are probably more interested”
(and on and on)

Instead, try the truth. Say what you mean. Be honest, not rude, just honest. Be firm. Stand your ground. You did as a child. Do it again. Maybe our real fear is telling the truth? Maybe we care too much about what the other person thinks so we rattle our tail of deception.